FREE Learning- What's the Difference Between Custom Knives and Cheap?
WHY Purchase a Custom Knife? Custom Handmade Chef's Knife? Who Makes Custom Knives Near Me?
What am I getting for the extra cost? Is a $200 knife better than a $25 big box store knife? Why? Will I know the difference?
I hope we'll answer those questions for you in this post! The Chef's Knife (kitchen knife, cook's knife) is the most used tool in the house for many of us, preparing our meals on a daily basis. With that in mind it sometimes amazes me what people have in their kitchen for their main food prep tool! While I can understand folks on short budgets getting inexpensive knives, I don't understand how DULL they sometimes are. However, most of the time cheap and dull go hand in hand. Let's explore the difference between "cheap" and "custom" knives.
Why Are Cheap Knives Cheap?
Cheap, mass produces factory knives are usually stamped from a sheet or roll of steel with a heavy duty press and dies that cut the knife profile from the sheet. This is called "blanking" in the industry, and steels that tolerate that well are said to have "fine blanking properties". But fine blanking properties are sometimes at odds with good knife steels, in that carbon and other alloys must be sufficiently low for the knife to be cut with dies, without damaging the dies. So sometimes the most desirable knife properties are fudged a little or a lot, for the sake of speed and economy in the factory. While not all blankable steels are inferior, they are then hardened and tempered into the 57-59Rc range, much too soft for a kitchen blade, so there is a compounding of errors.
A custom knife maker is not bound by blanking properties and can therefore choose a steel for the most desirable properties of the BLADE, not the processes used to make the knife. Properties such as hardness, toughness, stain resistance, and edge retention, things that matter to YOU, the end user. Custom makers most often use metal cutting bandsaws, plasma cutters, and waterjets to cut the profiles of their knives, so we can choose the steel for its BLADE properties, and not just machinability. This alone virtually guarantees a better knife steel. My stainless knives' final hardness is 62-63 HRc rather than mid to high 50 found in "factory knives", much more appropriate for kitchen cutlery.
Speaking only for myself, I have tested all the steels I use in my own ovens, and have recipes for each that produce optimal properties. Each knife is cryogenically treated in liquid nitrogen to extend the quench and maximize hardness and strength. Each knife is then tempered for a minimum two hours, two different times at a temperature specific to the steel and the knife's intended use, to achieve maximum toughness for the desired hardness. "As quenched" and tempered hardnesses are checked on each batch of blades. Most factory blades don't receive these extra steps to improve overall quality, and it shows.
Another characteristic of low cost factory knives is the molded plastic handle. Most often these are some low cost thermoplastic that can be molded directly to the knife, or molded separately and then attached with mechanical fasteners like screws or rivets. The advantage of this material is it can usually withstand the dishwasher, but offers nothing aesthetically pleasing to the knife itself. The custom maker chooses handle material very carefully, and handcrafts a work of art for the handle of your knife. I use mostly local woods, professionally stabilized, with interesting grain patterns, burl, curl, and/or spalting to raise the WOW! factor. Keith Nix Knives handles have a gentle swell in the middle to nestle securely into your palm and provide additional grip when wet. The capstone of this is when you order a custom knife you should be able to choose YOUR OWN HANDLE MATERIAL! Custom, right?? Learn about how handles are made, attached, and finished HERE!
Factory knives are typically thick and heavy, an easy way to help prevent breakage and warranty claims. Custom knives are typically thinner for keener sharper edges, which are much better for slicing and puts less weight in your hand. While sheer weight is sometimes associated with high quality, in the knife world it is no indication of quality at all.
HOW MANY Knives??-
I'd wager that many of you have a block on your counter with six or eight, maybe even a dozen knives in it. But think, how many of those do you actually USE? Many "experts" think a home kitchen needs only a chef's knife, a bread knife, and a paring knife. I have to say I pick up a 6-7" petite chef more often than the eight or ten inch chef's, but that's just me. I don't want to be without either. If you don't slice bread, a utility knife might work better for you. If you often prepare large cuts of meat, a slicer might be a good choice for your kitchen. The important thing is to own knives that have a PURPOSE in your kitchen, not because they came in the block you purchased. Another reason to purchase knives one or two at a time for an intended purpose!
Custom knives should last a lifetime or longer, and then be something your heirs want when you're gone. That big box knife? Send it to the thrift store! My point is simple, it is that when you purchase a custom handmade knife you have invested in an heirloom. You will have something that you HAD A SAY in creating. It will be your vision come to life. You may have chosen the steel, the wood, the profile, and/or the finish on the handle. It will be your knife, not some assembly line piece that your guests or family don't even acknowledge. And I promise you, people WILL see it, they'll oooh and aaah over it! And it will serve you well. Learn to care for Custom Knives HERE!
What Does That Price Get Me?? You can easily buy a big box chef's knife for $20-100. In fact, you can probably buy an entire block of kitchen knives for $100. My chef's knives are currently $210. What do you get for all that money? Let's make a list:
1) You get a piece of steel that I personally know has received OPTIMUM heat treat to maximize and balance the properties of that steel, for THIS application.
2) It will be thin enough to slice, not thick enough to pry open stuck windows. Not because it's easy for me, but because it's a kitchen knife we're making.
3) You get a custom handle of your choosing, made from professionally stabilized wood, finished to satin, semi, or full gloss, with a grain pattern you will think you can see down into. It will be a conversation piece.
4) You get a professional, precise, even, HAND SHARPENED edge, finished to 3000 grit, stropped with a variety of pasted strops, until your blade is literally hair shaving sharp. Read about How I Sharpen Your Knives HERE!
5) You get an heirloom, and a great tool. Something your kids or grandkids will want. Something with LASTING value.
6) And this guarantee--- "Your Keith Nix Knives custom knife is guaranteed for life. Yours or mine, whichever comes first. I will either repair or replace your custom knife at my discretion. All you have to do is ship or deliver it to me and pick it up.
If you don't like your Keith Nix Knife, ship it back or bring it by. I'll refund the purchase price or exchange it for a knife you DO like, no questions asked." (OK, I'll ask questions, but to learn, not criticize.
When your custom knife gets dull, and it will, I'll sharpen it free of charge, always. Dull knives are awful to work with. Just don't do it.
Nope, they're not $25. But Keith Nix Knives are a GREAT value!
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Thanks for reading,